Monday, January 21, 2013

Inaugurated again in spite of his color

Hail to the chief
Four years ago, many claimed that Barack Obama's inauguration as our 44th president was because of the color of his skin.

Today, on another storm-free day, in front of a smaller but still sizable crowd, President Obama was inaugurated for his second term in spite of his color.

He was re-elected by a majority of Americans who believe he is doing a good job in spite of all the problems that still plague us. The novelty of his skin color has worn off. He is our president.

This is another big step in becoming a "post-racial" society.

Today shows the world that if America can overcome its shortcomings, particularly in racial matters, so can any nation on earth.

I believe President Obama's first term had a direct impact on Myanmar/Burma opening up to democracy in 2010.

President Obama's mere presence as the leader of the free world led to the so-called "Arab spring" that has now turned to "Arab winter" in Syria.

The freedom fallout will continue in despotic nations across the world during President Obama's second term.

Fidel Castro will eventually die during President Obama's second term and we will see Cuba become a democratic nation, one that the president will visit.

North Korea will begin to lose its stranglehold on its people and will succumb to the openness of the internet as it shows North Koreans to see that there is a better way of life out there and that they can have it, too.

Certainly, President Obama won't claim success in any of these areas. His leadership in these trouble spots will be questioned.

But, he's led by example and it's a powerful example of what can be overcome, both here and abroad.

It's a great day for America and for the world.

And, it happened on the holiday to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr.

The deeper meaning of today is represented by many people including President Obama's brother-in-law, Oregon State University basketball Coach Craig Robinson, who wore OSU colors and smiled broadly right near the president on the steps of the Capitol.

This state, never known for its tolerance of "outsiders," now is on the map as a place where African Americans can live and prosper.

That thread of tolerance, however tenuous, connects our country from coast to coast.

Bend resident Myrlie Evers-Williams gave the invocation, by invoking her assassinated husband, Medgar, as well as King and others who bear witness "unseen by the naked eye, but all around us -- thankful that their living was not in vain."

An African-American Navy officer, attending her first inauguration, told the Washington Post she was serving in Iraq during President Obama's first inauguration.

"Now, I'm here to cheer him on," she said. "Everything Martin Luther King marched for and spoke on has come true."


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Kudos to Mayor Clinton

Mayor Jim Clinton
Although I thought having a woman as mayor would send the right message about Bend, I am very pleased that Jim Clinton was unanimously elected Bend's mayor by his fellow councilors. (Bend has yet to get the memo on voters electing their own mayor).

Clinton, a native Oregonian from Lakeview and a retired physicist, represents what Bend is all about: progressive and smart.

That's not to say his fellow councilors are regressive and stupid, although some are, but Clinton stands above the rest.

And, it's also good news that Jodie Barram, another progressive, was named mayor pro tem.

There will be push-back from the development community, but they know they have our naive city manager in their back pockets.

Still, Clinton and Barram make a fine dynamic duo to steer our city toward a more balanced approach in solving our infrastructure problems.

Good luck.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sheriff takes wild shot at gun control efforts

'Give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled gun nuts ...'
The sheriff in Central Oregon's Crook County has joined his counterpart in Linn County in western Oregon in refusing to enforce any new gun laws or regulations.

Sheriff Jim Hensley's letter to Vice President Joe Biden, as reported on KTVZ's website, states "it is the position of this Sheriff that I refuse to participate, or stand idly by, while my citizens are turned into criminals due to the unconstitutional actions of misguided politicians."

Well, it looks like Hensley has unwittingly made the case for Central Oregonians to own any kind of firearm to protect themselves against this law enforcement lunatic, with access to all kinds of firearms, who believes he is above the law of the land.

Hensley, evidently, is hoping for another school massacre, this time in Crook County.

It's obvious he craves attention by telling KTVZ: "If the federal government comes into Crook County and wants to take firearms and things from (citizens), I'm going to tell them it's not going that way."

In case he needs reminding, Hensley's job is to enforce the law, not to ignore it, subvert it or violate it.

Hensley has demonstrated that he should be fired from his position by the Crook County Court.

The Crook County sheriff has joined other hyperventilating gun fetishists across the country in coming unhinged from reality. Check out the comments after the KTVZ story to see how crazy some people are in "God's country."

The facts are simple. In countries that have strict gun control laws, there are around 50 homicides a year from firearms. In America, we average about 15,000 a year. For those who are math-challenged, 15,000 is much larger than 50.

If some Americans think the price of freedom in the U.S. is easily worth 15,000 killings every year, not to mention the roughly 20,000 annual suicides by guns, then this country is due for even bloodier days than the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 kindergartners and six adults were sacrificed for this "freedom."

Follow the money

Those three simple words uttered 40 years ago during the Watergate scandal are as relevant today as they were then.

Ever wonder why nothing much changes in America?

Well, look to the power of lobbyists with deep pockets who prevent progressive change in this country.

From the National Rifle Association to the American Trucking Associations (ATA) to the National Association of Home Builders lobbies control America.

The vote of the people doesn't stand a chance against the billions spent each year buying legislators in Washington, D.C., and in state houses across the land.

To help sort some of this out is, run by the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks how much money is spent and who gets it.

The lobbies mentioned above are deemed "heavy hitters," meaning that they are among "the 140 biggest overall donors to federal elections since the 1990 election cycle, as compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics."

These powerful lobbies not only buy votes, but make sure a legislator is defeated next time around if he or she doesn't toe their special interest line.

In other words, we can never get reasonable gun control because the NRA literally puts a gun to the head of lawmakers.

We can never really maintain a decent quality of life when the National Association of Home Builders makes sure its members avoid paying their fair share of growth-related infrastructure problems that they create.

And, thanks to the American Trucking Associations, truckers don't have to pay their fair share for the damage they do to the nation's roads.

Not only that, but the trucking lobby gets government to blame the owner of a Prius for not paying their fair share of gasoline taxes.

In Oregon, the highway department is considering changing the way we pay for road maintenance by going from the current fuel tax system to a "vehicle miles traveled" model.

Of course, thanks to lobbying from the trucking industry, this VMT would only affect cars that get more than 55 miles per gallon.

In other words, the state is looking at owners of hybrid or electric vehicles to pay for damage to roadways caused primarily by heavy trucks.

It is common knowledge in the trucking industry and government transportation departments that heavy trucks, compared to the average sedans, cause almost all the damage to our roads.

We hear lots of talk in Oregon about all the damage done to our roads by studded tires, but this bogus argument is pushed by the trucking industry to deflect attention away from the triple trailers.

At the height of their usage in the mid-1990s, only 16 percent of Oregon vehicles used studded tires. (And, that's only for five months out of the year.) Since then, the use of studless snow tires has surged to the point that studded tires are lucky to be used on even 5 percent of Oregon vehicles. Costco stopped selling studded tires years ago. And yet, all we hear is the costly damage that studded tires cause our roads. We rarely, if ever, hear about the real damage that heavy trucks inflict on our transportation system.

And, while traffic on rural roads, such as those found in Central Oregon, has declined over the past 8 years, the average load, due to heavy trucks, has skyrocketed.

So, why is ODOT concerned about the tiny percentage of vehicles that get such good gas mileage they don't need to fill up so often or, in the case of electric vehicles, don't have to fill up at all?

Because, the trucking industry wants to divert attention away from the real problem: heavy trucks.

There is a proposal in Washington, though, that would tax trucks on the vehicle miles traveled model, which would increase taxes paid by truckers. Of course, the trucking industry is ready for battle.

The ATA will fight any plan that raises the trucking tax by even 1 cent.

And, the ATA has the money to win.

This means that those citizens who do the right thing by investing in a hybrid or electric vehicle will have to pay the freight, and more, for all those freight trucks causing all the damage to our roads.

It's all about the money.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Shooting their mouths off

Our local representatives in the state legislature said Thursday that they favor the freedom to murder kindergartners over the freedom to prevent such mass murders.

State Sen. Tim Knopp and state Rep. Jason Conger, both Republicans, said they will fight any common sense gun safety measures that are gaining steam in Oregon in the wake of the December shootings in Connecticut and in Clackamas, a Portland suburb.

Knopp and Conger believe that military-style assault rifles, with high-capacity clips, are wonderful weapons and that Oregonians should be able to shoot them anywhere, anytime.

Knopp and Conger believe that the mass murders we routinely endure in this country are simply the price of our freedom to own virtually any gun we want. And, hypocritically, they claim to be "pro-life."

Many NRA types believe that our violent video games and movies are really the problem.

While violent video games and movies are definitely disturbing, there has been no documented case of a video game or a movie actually killing anyone.

Rather, in every case of a person who was shot to death, a gun was involved.

While Conger doesn't think an armed guard is the answer for our public schools, many others do, including a Redmond mom as reported on KTVZ.

Of course, there was an armed guard at Columbine and even a SWAT team at Virginia Tech. They did nothing to prevent those unspeakable tragedies.

The next step for the gun-fetish crowd is to arm everyone, even schoolchildren.

The problem, as all other developed countries have figured out, is the weapon.

When you get rid of military-type weapons you nearly eliminate mass shootings.

For those who want to shoot off assault weapons or defend the rights of citizens to be able to murder as many people as possible in the shortest time imaginable, the answer is to join the military.

Or, move to Somalia.